Every winter, Mark Rolfson and his family spend their weekends racing through the mountains northeast of Jackson Hole, Wyo., running their snowmobiles across much of that state's 650 miles of groomed trails. He loves the fresh air, the views and the excitement.
When summer comes, the only thing that changes for the Rolfsons is their mode of operation.That's why this family of four, including wife Marsha and sons Jonathan and Kyle, plans to spend July 24 running down Emigration Canyon in the Deseret News/Granite Furniture Marathon.
"This is the third time in the past six years that we've decided to come to the Deseret News (Marathon)," Rolfson said during an interview in West Yellowstone, Mont., earlier this month. "We love the mountains, and the marathon combines everything we love about running with our passion for the outdoors."
When Rolfson left his native southern California for the wilds of Wyoming 10 years ago, he vowed to never take "the mountains for granted. It's easy to forget when we live in the Intermountain area just how unique and pristine our environment really is." So the Rolfsons took up running and brought along their sons, whom Mark jokes "probably ran before they walked." Though the family doesn't run marathons with great frequency,it has also entered races in Colorado and Idaho.
"The Deseret News race is our favorite, by far," he added. "We've made some friends in the Salt Lake area over the years, so we usually plan a part of our summer vacations around coming to town and entering the races."
Mark will enter the marathon, while Marsha and the boys plan on the 10K race, "unless I can talk one or all of them into joining me." He said the marathon route, which winds down from Washington Park through downtown Salt Lake City and finishes at Liberty Park, is "probably the prettiest run I've ever enjoyed."
Again this year, proceeds from the marathon, the 10K and the 5K Fitness Walk will benefit the Marine Corps Reserves' Toys for Tots program in Utah. Executive race director Steve Handy said early bird registration is already underway for all events.
"We've been working with race director Scott Kerr and the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department again in preparation for the races," Handy said. "We began right after New Year's, and it takes a solid effort by dozens of volunteers working for more than six months to get everything in place."
The races are divided into a number of categories, including 14 age-groups, Clydesdale races for men over 200 pounds and women over 140, a wheelchair category and a Masters category.The races finish along the Days of '47 parade route lined by 200,000 spectators.
"The first time we came through in front of all those people was a little intimidating," Mark recalled. "But, since I ran cross country in high school in front of about 20 people, mostly coaches and other runners, it was also gratifying."